light academia

Explained: What is light academia, the softer younger sister to dark academia?

Beige sweater vests and ruffle socks galore

TikTok has given birth to a lot of fashion aesthetics ever since it gained popularity. From e-girl to cottagecore to Y2K girl, one of the most popular has been the dark academia aesthetic. However, much like every fashion trend cycle, a style will eventually inspire a contrary look due to constantly shifting online trends. Meet light academia, the lighthearted counterpart to its gothic older sister.

Light and dark academia are are both subcultures of the “academia” aesthetic, which take inspiration from established educational institutions such as Oxford or Yale, and the environments surrounding them. They focus on museums, art galleries, British moors, boarding schools and vintage books, to name a few.

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A post shared by @lightacademiaaesthetic

But just what exactly is light academia? And how do you model the aesthetic? Here is our full explainer of the trend:

What is light academia?

Light academia is the emotionally positive and visually lighter relative of dark academia. The style inspiration for both is rooted in literature, however the differences between their fashion choices boil down to colour palette (beige versus black) and the fabrics (lightweight versus cosy).

Light academia is very much about positivity and self-care, seen through the social aspects involved such as hanging around bakeries, bookshops, libraries and cafes. It can be seen as similar to the cottagecore aesthetic, although has more of a focus on education. It all is about the warm and pleasurable parts of life.

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A post shared by Seline (@lifebytheink)

Amanda Brennan, Tumblr’s trend expert, explains the movement: “Light academia is an aesthetic that focuses on the softer and gentler side of dark academia.

“It still embodies the love of learning, but with an airier, less doom-focused feel that shows that knowledge brings light and happiness in the outdoors rather than a gothic darkness seen curled up in a corner.”

There are even Spotify playlists created, to really get you in the light academia mood. You can find one here.

How to dress the aesthetic

There is a very specific colour palette for this aesthetic. This includes cream, brown, beige and white, usually in the form of blazers and sweater vests. And it’s clear that they’re in high demand. On Depop, searches for light academia started to pop in June 2020 and went up by nearly 900 percent by October.

So what exactly does one need to wear? The Tab have compiled a list of the most TikTok worthy garments to spice up your aesthetic. Remember the colour palette!


– Tweed blazers

– Turtlenecks

– Corduroy jackets

– Cardigans

– Cable knit sweaters/jumpers

– Button up shirts/dress shirts

– Sweater vests


– Wingtips

– Mary Janes

– Doc Martens

– Oxford shoes


– Headbands

– Glasses

– Hair ribbons

– Hair clips

– Knee high or ruffle socks

– Watches

– Leather belts

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A post shared by chanel (@itsschanel.m)

The rise in light academia also has something to do with the end of lockdown, and the upcoming summer months. Larkin Brown, Pintrest’s in-house stylist says: “As we all look towards a COVID-free future, families are looking forward to sending their children back to school, dressing up to go into the office, and leaving the homes they’ve hibernated in for the past year.

“Looking forward to a lighter world is contributing to the rising trend of light academia.”

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